This guy.

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This guy is 34 today. Which means ten birthdays have passed since we first became a couple. I look at him, and the gray that is slowing taking over his beard and I love it.  He has a few more wrinkles around his eyes, but I don’t mind in the least.  God willing, I am going to grow old with this man and it is comforting to see the physical markers begin to document the passing of that time together.

It took a while, but he has finally settled into himself and sometimes, when he is smoking his pipe, or tinkering on his truck or motorcycle, I just sit back and watch him.  This man, who in many ways is sooo different from the 25 year old guy I married, has captured my whole heart.  Not in some “fluttery, over-romanticized” type of way. But in the kind of way where my hands feel perfectly at home in his own rough, calloused hands.

He used to have the hands of a photographer.  Smooth. Hardworking, but a little aristocratic.

But I like this version better.  I like the callouses he has earned since learning to become a welder, and how his hands always seem to be stained a bit black around the edges. They are scarred too, from remodeling our house and rebuilding his truck and motorcycle entirely on his own.

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And that is what I want from our life together.  I want our life to bear the proof and marks of a life actually lived.  There are times when I have chased an overly idealized version of myself, or demanded that of my husband and our marriage.  You know, trying to cultivate a perfect moment-by-moment life worthy of a million Instagram followers?  Or, trading real life moments for the script of “what is supposed to be” and then finding it sometimes just doesn’t seem to add up? Don’t let grace become a stranger, let it be what makes those marks beautiful.  I don’t want a marriage or life that is too busy trying to hide the gray, or smooth away the wrinkles. I want to earn that stuff like a badge of honor and actually celebrate it. With candles. : )

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The truth is, I don’t really like flowers. But I love when you leave me a cup of coffee before you leave for work just because I don’t know how to properly make it.

The truth is, I got up early today to make you breakfast and the pancakes turned out to be heavy bricks of uncooked batter.  So instead, we laughed and ate a breakfast of burnt bacon, coffee and orange juice.

The truth is, sometimes we fight like cats and dogs and I have a really, REALLY hard time admitting when I am wrong (also, I can be waaay too sassy). We know each other’s buttons to push and even worse, sometimes we do it on purpose. But you never let me walk away from you, even when that would be easier. And that commitment is what grounds my own.

The truth is, we’ve both gone through our own individual battles (yours=career change, mine=infertility), but we’ve never left each other’s side. We take turns carrying the other’s burden and that has grown something beautiful in both of us. 

The truth is, some of my favorite moments with you are the most ordinary moments.  And that is okay with me.

image And so, I want to say Happy Birthday and celebrate that you are a great man because you have the desire to love me in the way that I need, even when I don’t know what that means. Because by coming into yourself, you’ve helped me become myself. And I like the “us” version the best.  Happy Birthday, my love.

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The Promise of Summer

Sorry for the radio silence…I’m back in school finishing my B.S. in Psychology and it has a tendency to soak up every last free minute of my life.

But here I am this evening, swinging in a hammock in my backyard, Jared smoking a pipe across from me, and I have a bowl full of cherries next to me.  The sky is that beautiful hazy pink color of summer and the breeze is whispering a lovely little tune through the leaves of the big old cherry tree in our backyard.  Everything is golden, and lovely, and magical.

And as I settle and enjoy this moment, I realize something. I am happy. But more than that, my whole heart is at rest. I am so content.

I turned 31 a week or so ago, and that birthday was remarkably different from when I turned 30. I hadn’t expected the mini-midlife crisis to sneak up on me like it did.  And suddenly, the “I’m 30…let’s celebrate!” turned into a reminder of dashed dreams, of places I thought I would already be, of loneliness, and fears that swallow you whole. And of all these reasons I had to celebrate vanished into a day full of inconsolable tears.

But oh, even on that day, when I was wailing and feeling so lonely, and out-of-place, and misunderstood, God reached down in His grace and reminded me that I am known and loved (please read about it here).

So here I am today, one year older and I think about the changes that have occurred in this last year. And really, from an outside perspective, nothing has really changed. It’s still just Jared and I, and our dog and cat. We live in the same house, still go to the same church, and have the same group of friends. I still get up and go to the same job, and still struggle with finding the motivation to cook and clean when I get home. I’m still way too attached to my iPhone, and still finding myself getting teary at times when I watch families with young kids.

But when I explore what has been going on in my heart, I find that change has actually come.  It reminds me of tonight. Somewhere, amidst our busyness, I failed to notice that summer was actually here. You’d think with the hot days we have been having, I would notice the change in seasons, like a commanding announcement that summer has arrived. Instead, I notice it more than ever tonight and like the breeze, its subtle. It’s warm and inviting. It’s not constant like a blistering hot desert wind, but invites me to swing slowly in my hammock, as it tickles the hairs around my face. It allows me to be quiet and enjoy this moment.

And it dawns on me…I am okay that nothing has “appeared” to have changed.  I think of last year’s prayer and realize it has been answered, or at least is BEING answered. I like the “being” part. It’s a process. One that will accompany me the rest of my life, regardless if children come.  Because it is not about children. It’s about God and I, and evenings like this where we talk without words. It’s about giving my heart the freedom to explore and uncover perfectly small, mundane moments of a life that is extraordinarily ordinary and finding that these are what make it beautiful. It’s about letting go of my demands for something else, so I can see the wildflowers at my feet.

I look at my husband, who is quietly content smoking his pipe, and think here is a man who makes my heart so full, it can never be truly be broken. In our eight years of marriage, I don’t think there has ever been a year where we have laughed so much as this one.

I think about all the birthdays I had growing up with my family, and realized this year was the first birthday since I was 20, where we all were together to celebrate. The cupcakes, party favors and punch of yesteryear were replaced with fine dining, laughter, and glasses of wine. And I remember looking around the table, and feeling like my heart might burst. To still gather as a family, whole, and complete, all these years later is something I won’t ever take for granted.

Contentment hasn’t been a stranger, or even a visitor. It’s been my heart’s companion. I know it’s from You, and while I don’t deserve it, I know it’s Your gift and an answer to the prayers of others on my behalf. These are great friends. Old ones, and new ones a like. Who are not afraid of my honesty, and yet love me and pray for me, even when I don’t feel like doing it myself.

There were times this last year, where I felt distant from You, as though I were doing nothing but going through the motions and I know I will share more about that at another time. But right now, I am going to be quiet, and invite this evening into my heart and allow a new melody of thankfulness to hum quietly in the breeze.

www.amongtheevergreens.wordpress.com

A Year Ago…

Here is a look at where I was a year ago.  I mentioned that it was a pretty rough day for me, so I am sharing my journal entry from that day to give context for the next post about where I find myself today…

June 25, 2013

Today I turn 30 and I wish I could write about how lovely a day it’s been and how excited I am for this new decade. But the truth is very far from that. It’s hard to face a milestone birthday at a different place in life than where I thought I would be. I so badly wanted to celebrate. I NEEDED to celebrate. To surround myself with everything that was good in my life so that way when I blew out the candles, my heart would draw on the strength and love of those around me.

Instead, because I was so depressed and shut everyone out, I baked a pan of brownies, lit my one and solitary candle, and gave God the last remaining scraps of a not very good day, and told Him it was yours. All yours. This day and this year. It was all I could muster as I blew out the candle and honestly, I think it was a prayer of resigned resolution rather than hopefulness.  

I don’t want to paint this day into my memory as one of ungratefulness and misery.  It literally PAINS me to record it honestly. I wanted to look back on turning thirty and be reminded of a magical time, of a special moment. Not necessarily one that was filled with glossed over sunshine and sparkles but one where I didn’t end up bawling my eyes out and retreating into a dark and lonely place. I HATE that I sound ungrateful. I hate that I sound so melodramatic and spoiled. I KNOW I have SO much to be thankful for and my life is beautiful regardless the way it’s celebrated because YOU celebrate me.

And maybe that’s what turning 30 is all about.  Acceptance.  

Wow. That sounds resolute and depressing. Haha : ) But I’ve been thinking about what turning 30 means to me and I don’t really know. I know it will come to mean many things and I hope one of those will be motherhood.  

But maybe you can’t grow if you are reaching too far forward or too far back. Maybe it’s like the saying goes, “Bloom where you are planted.” Maybe it’s opening my eyes to find what’s already in bloom around me.

I got to Skype with Bonnie and Sungsoo tonight and meet sweet little Jasper. Of course, Bonnie, like I knew she would, saw right past my forced facade of “everything is alright,” and I broke down in a blubbering mess. And they prayed over me, through a computer screen, from the other side of the world and it was the most beautiful thing imaginable…their love for me. Sunny prayed that I would understand that You delight in me, and I knew in that moment You do, and it caught me in a moment of overwhelming awe and surprise.  

I do need to grow up, to let go of expectations of how this life is supposed to go and instead, allow You to present me with beautiful, unexpected moments that occur amidst a real life that isn’t always a birthday party.  That Skype time with Bonnie was precious because of the tears we cried as I poured out my heart over my barren womb, while she held her own sweet four-day old son in her arms.  That is friendship.  Unconditional love. Honesty. Empathy.  Sixteen years of shared experiences and faith.  Most people go their entire lives not having that type of friendship, and yet I cried today because I thought I was forgotten.

You can’t see what’s right in front of you when you are too busy being distracted by what you think you want.  And so, I think this is what I pray for as I turn thirty:  

That I would bloom where I am planted.  That I would accept what I’ve been given.  Not out of begrudging or flippant resolution, but out of hope that I am loved.  I am Your delight.  I am beautiful. I want to run in open fields with open arms to feel the freedom that comes from being YOURS. To stop and see the wildflowers you have planted at my feet and stop looking for that perfect, manicured garden that supposedly exists somewhere else. I want to hold Your hand, feel the sunshine on my face, and know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

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Note:  A few days after I wrote this post, I got a big ol’ tattoo to commemorate it. I chose roses because (1) I wanted to remember to “bloom where I am planted” (2) it’s my birth month flower (Go June!) (3) an ode to this city and the way God has used it and the people who inhabit it to tell me a greater story of Himself (Portland is the city of roses).

So, if you ever wanted to know if there was any significance to that tattoo, there you go…. ; )

(Another) Note: Just so everyone knows, my “crappy” 30th birthday had nothing to do with my sweet, and amazing husband.  He planned an amazing day and I was too much of a wreck to be able to enjoy it properly. He is the best. Period. End. Dot.

www.amongtheevergreens.wordpress.com

A Good Friday

When I was younger I always pondered why the Friday before Easter was called, “Good Friday.” It’s a somber day. One of reflection. After all, Jesus died a bloody death, ridiculed by the very people He came to save. I know that His death needed to happen and that in of itself was “good,” but it just never felt right to call it that. I would have called it, “Dark Friday.” It’s a day of mourning, deep reflection, and confession.

But now, my whole heart understands and longs for “Good Friday.” This year, I finally get it.

It IS a day of remembrance.

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On this day, two years ago, our home community lost its leader, Terry Shoman. He died unexpectedly, at the age of 52. The shock, devastation, and grief knocked a hole through my heart and even as I write this, I have tears streaming down my face. I know a remnant of that hole will always be there. But I’m realizing this is what happens when you lose someone in your life. They take a piece of your heart with them. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t heal. He does. In miraculous ways. It just means that person was so special they can’t be replaced by something or someone else. So you learn to live with a heart that is marked.

But those marks are special. They are beautiful. It means that a person had an impact on your life and for this reason, I am thankful for those marks, even though they hurt sometimes.

When Jared and I first started attending Imago Dei, we took a Financial Peace University class. It was led by this guy named, Terry Shoman, who talked about freedom, generosity, and Christ in a way that caused joyous tears to shine in his eyes. Here was a man whose whole heart belonged to Christ in a way I hadn’t yet witnessed. And I remember being amazed by that.

Fast forward a year and half later. Jared and I decided we needed to investigate joining a home community, so we picked the one closest to our house. As we pulled up to the house on SE 92nd St, and walked up those front steps, I was nervous. So nervous. I’m not very good at meeting new people and I didn’t know what to expect. We knocked and the door was opened by the guy from Financial Peace University, the one with the great laugh, and I knew, just KNEW with my WHOLE HEART that everything was going to be okay.

And it was. He welcomed us into his home with a great big hug and we never left. We went on to become co-leaders of that home community and two years after his death, our group is still meeting. We tell every new visitor about Terry. I strongly believe our group is a legacy of Terry and his beautiful wife, Shari. It was (and is) their conviction to live out their faith authentically that fosters our community now. I know those buzz words, “community” and “authenticity” get tossed around in Christian social circles like an overused marketing tool. But please believe me, when you actually experience the real thing, it changes your life and your relationship with God. I’m a changed person not because I knew Terry. I am a changed person because Terry allowed Christ to shine in every aspect of his life.

And this year, on the anniversary of his death, I find that the hole in my heart isn’t filling with grief. It’s filled with joy for the time we did have with him. It’s filled with awe as I watch his wife, Shari, continue to live out her husband’s legacy with strength and love. It’s filled with thanksgiving for a very dear friendship with his daughter, Jesse, whom I never would have known if she hadn’t moved back home after he died. It’s filled with encouragement from his son, Isaac, who reminds us all to continually cling to Christ’s promise that we will see Terry again. It’s filled with the desire to live and love generously, like Terry did. It’s filled with desire to welcome new people into my own home each week, just as Terry and Shari welcomed us. And last night, as our home community gathered in that familiar living room on SE 92nd, I was filled with thankfulness. Life goes on, and while it’s hard at times, I am utterly convinced that Christ’s death & resurrection is the very thing that gives life to us, both here now and in eternity. It fills the hole in my heart with hope. And it makes me smile and cry happy tears.

And suddenly, my “Dark Friday,” turns into “Good Friday.”

Clichés & Dark Chocolate

Last week I had a terrible day. An awful day. The kind where you are already wishing for a re-do by 10 a.m.  I’ve been exhausted by a lot of different things lately, and a lot of it has been outside of my control.  Each day feels like running a marathon, and just as I cross the finish line, I have to wake up and  do it all over again.  And on that particular day, when I was already limping on mile three, complaining that the day’s finish line seemed half-way around the world, I got news that a beloved person in my life is pregnant again.  And I don’t know why, because I’ve felt pretty peaceful about this infertility thing lately, it knocked me out completely and suddenly I was no longer running toward the finish line, but collapsed in the dirt, unable to move.

And I cried. But these weren’t tears of resentment, anger, or even hurt. They were tears of exhaustion. Of just being tired and wanting to know that I wouldn’t always be here in this place. But knowing I couldn’t let myself wallow, I said a prayer, wiped my tears, and set about my day’s checklist, kinda shutting everything else out.

And then, a few hours later, I unwrapped a Dove dark chocolate.  Caveat: I have a love affair with dark chocolate, and my co-workers tend to make it worse because they are always dropping little red foil-wrapped hearts on my desk. I usually enjoy reading the little sayings that are printed on the inside of the wrapper. I find them amusing.

Except for this particular one.

It said, “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.”

I wanted to throw it across the room. Seriously? Of all the things I needed to hear that day, THAT was not it. And I was mad. Granted, I usually put ZERO stock into those type of things (i.e.: Chinese fortune cookies), but why couldn’t it have said something cute? Or, something that made me chuckle to brighten my day? For some reason, that little piece of foil felt like some kind of sentencing. A Divine one. And I wanted to rebel against it. To push it away because I was NOT exactly where I am supposed to be. Right God? I’m just passing through. Like a tumbleweed breezing across the desert on its way to the Promised Land.

But as it so often happens, when I have a little bit of space and time to gain perspective, I realized this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

And it’s hard to hear. And it’s hard to accept and while I want to shove it away, I force myself to stand here in this spot, allowing my toes to wriggle in my boots, forcing air into my lungs, slowing down the heartbeat hammering in my chest. This place, where I don’t want to be, is EXACTLY where I am supposed to be.  And I’m not going to force the “why?” and try to explain it away. Some things aren’t for me to know right now.

So, I’m going to allow myself to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, knowing that while I don’t understand it now, there are things at work that make this place beautiful.

I’m not a tumbleweed blowing aimlessly across a desert of meaninglessness.  I am a daughter, wife, sister, friend, and beloved child of a God who paints desert landscapes with His presence in colors of shimmering gold, and a dazzling ombré of purple, orange, and red. I see Him all around me and it fills me with a type of wonder that makes me want to lay down my own self-sufficiency, anger, and doubt at His feet.

And yes, I do believe that God uses the mundane, everyday things to speak. Even cliches, wrapped around dark chocolate. Look and listen. You’ll find Him.

Among the Evergreens...a blog.

Exploring the Silence

Journal entry: 11 Oct 2013

Say something.

For the last few years, this has been a prayer of mine. It is a desperate plea from a broken, and tired heart that needs reassurance You are still there.

For the longest time, all I’ve done is demand answers. Answers about family, answers about my husband’s job, answers to the things I am struggling with in life. I felt I was seeking You earnestly, trying to make sense of it all, not wanting to take a step outside of Your leading. As a Christian, I am taught that God DOES always answer prayers, either with a “yes,” “no,” or “not right now.” But honestly, it felt like I wasn’t getting any of the three. It was a deafening silence. It blanketed everything.

Can silence shout back? It certainly can feel like it. The echoes of unanswered prayers drown out everything else.

And even though this might not make a lot of sense, it felt like the silence was intentional. Don’t get me wrong. I KNEW You were there. I KNEW I was not abandoned. But I couldn’t understand why on earth You weren’t speaking.

Silence is like fog. You begin to fear it because it envelopes everything. You lose the confidence to put one foot in front of the other because you aren’t sure where you are supposed to go.

And so I froze, anxious in my doubts and insecurities. But slowly, bit by bit, I allowed myself to settle in the silence of the fog. I took a deep breath and tried to get comfortable where I stood.  And slowly, I started to hear.

I have no problem coming to You as my provider. Provider of salvation, strength, direction, forgiveness, of things to come….but I’ve been so distracted listening for concrete answers that I missed Your voice.

And is says, “Let Me be your comfort when the answers don’t come.”

Comfort means presence. It can’t exist outside of relationship. It means that I am loved and am KNOWN. All of these questions and confusion…the times I feel so alone or struggle with how to express everything I am feeling….You ALREADY KNOW. And that is a sacred intimacy that has to be experienced. Not read about. Not drawn out on a piece of paper.

Because in my demands for answers, I exchanged the God of relationship for a math equation. Or a magic eight ball. Or a roadmap.

You are so much more than that.

So much more.

Among the Evergreens...a blog.

The Perfect Lie

Lies can come in many forms and are told in a million different ways. But the worst ones, the most damaging ones, are like a tiny little seed planted in the far corners of our hearts by a force with the ability to ever so slowly twist truth into something unrecognizable. This lie is so dangerous because it subtly attempts to destroy the inherent value that is ours by birthright. Yours and mine. Until one day we look in the mirror and see only what the lie tells us. It whispers, it tempts, it sometimes shouts.

And the lie is this:

We are what we get.

I’m not sure if this is just a lie told here in United States and modern culture but it’s one I fell for “hook, line, and sinker” and I didn’t even know it. The lie tells us that our worth is defined or measured by what we receive in life. Be it a stable job, a warm home, deliverance from addiction, security, a community, a family…a baby. Whatever it is, when we ask for something, or work really hard, and we get it, we use it to affirm our place in the universe, a sigh-of-relief that we apparently matter. You know, the whole “I asked, I worked hard, I made it happen,” mentality we all tend to ascribe to here in our progressive culture. And while those things I listed are all good things to seek out and work for, the equation ends in a lie because what happens in the instances where those things don’t appear?

I know for me, I started to feel invisible. I started to doubt myself and compare and rank myself against others. I started to doubt God. Had I done something wrong? Was I not fit for the calling I felt was placed on my life? What do I do with that? What was my identity? Where was my value? Maybe this whole “God thing” wasn’t this personal, intimate relationship I had placed all my trust in? Or, maybe God was there, but didn’t care? After all, our culture seems to measure love by what we get out of it. And right now, it was feeling scarce in the void of wanting.

Unanswered prayers start to make you feel insignificant. As if you are just speck in all of this nothingness. When we allow the “what we get,” to bestow value, our whole system in assigning worth to ourselves and others starts to skew drastically.

THIS is why this lie is so perfect. THIS is why the lie is so dangerous.

We need benchmarks to measure because our minds absolutely cannot fathom a love that names us, and gives us inherent value based on nothing other than our Creator who spoke it into existence. We want the ability to control it, to put it at a distance because if we accept it, IT CHANGES EVERYTHING.

When we realize our value isn’t something we create, earn, or produce, we start to see the homeless person on the street as our kin and not just a pile of dirt to ignore. We begin to understand that God’s way of assigning value is not based on politics, race, gender, socioeconomic status, appearance, mental capacity, or the mistakes we’ve made. It’s also not to be solely judged or measured by the good things that come into our lives.

If we use these means to assign our value, this leaves room to belittle others, to take advantage of them. We use comparison as the basis of our  hierarchy as we all try to fight our way to the top. Shoving, and pushing. Scratching, and clawing.

It allows room for the lie to tell us we.don’t.matter. And for a while, in my own messed up way, I started to believe that “what” I didn’t “get,” spoke more loudly about God’s love for me than what I already had. For me, that was a baby, but we all have our something that is inherently tied to how we want the world to see us and how we measure love.

But thankfully, the only thing that can destroy a lie is truth.

So instead, I offer you this:

We ARE because what we’ve been GIVEN. A slight change in words, but it flips the lie into the most glorious truth. And that “given” is the bestowed, intangible image in which we were created, born out of His love for all of mankind, and proven on a cross.

It can’t be measured. It can’t be contained. It frees the captives and it SHOUTS that NO ONE or NO LIE gets to rob us of what has already been ransomed. We are the Imago Dei.

Among the Evergreens...a blog.

Somewhere Along the Road…

I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted the Gospel to be the biggest thing in my life. But I also want to be honest (there’s that word again) and say that it wasn’t this glory-filled, selfless moment when I prayed those words. Far from it.

It was a moment of desperation. It was me giving up. Or, rather giving in.

You see, I’ve spent the better part of two years sifting through a lot of confusion, hurt and I hate to admit, some resentment, and at times anger.

But what was my resentment about? Was it simply that I wanted a child and I didn’t have one? Was it that I prayed and sought God daily and yet He appeared to remain silent? I’ve thought about this a lot, about the posture of my heart, and I really think I felt betrayed by God.

Ouch.

It took me a really long time to admit to God, and to myself, that I even wanted to bear a child. For years, I kept telling myself that God was in control and whatever He wanted for us is what I wanted too, whether that be adoption or having our own. But then sometime in the past two years, the prayer of my heart changed (more on that in another post).

I wanted to have a child. The simple truth of that admission rocked me to my core. And so, like the very precious thing it was, I gently handed it over to God, and said, here you go. Be careful with that. That’s my heart you are holding in Your hands.

And then I waited. And waited. And I’m still waiting.

Once I told my mom, fighting tears, “This hurt that is breaking my heart right now? THIS is the VERY reason I never wanted to admit to myself I wanted to have a child. Why would God do that? Why would He finally give me a dream after all these years and then take it hostage?”

I wish I could say I turned back to God and allowed Him to answer that question. Instead, somewhere along the road, I started to doubt that God was good and I became resentful. It seemed like a cruel joke because I felt God gave me a dream, literally pulled it out of me, despite my best efforts to hide it, and I got my heart broken in exchange. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, you know? Not in the way I was hoping my life would go, not in what I hoped I would experience in my walk with God.

And so there was a time in which I felt the ugliness start to settle deep in the darkest corners of my heart where I felt no one could see. I was on edge, short-tempered, and ungrateful. I would go to church and still leave feeling void and empty, not allowing anything to penetrate the thick cement wall I was busily rebuilding around my heart. I didn’t want this hurt. I didn’t want to feel so vulnerable…so exposed. I didn’t want to doubt the God I had loved my whole life.

So, I tried to will myself out of this depression. Telling myself, as a Christian, I should know better. I should be behaving better. I should be grateful, trusting, and not resentful. And week after week, it continued until the “I should be’s” chained themselves around my ankles, and I fell.

Hard.

I was sick of myself. I was sick of what I had allowed myself to become. I was sick of the lies I clung to just so I could justify myself and my own emotions. I was sick of trying to present myself to others as something better than what I knew I really was. And as it often happens, when we have nothing of ourselves to fall back on, when we’ve drained ourselves to the point of exhaustion, we fall (not necessarily by choice) at the feet of Jesus. I remember it was a Sunday this past summer. I can’t remember what the sermon was on…I was most likely distracted (sorry Rick!). But when we walked forward to take communion that morning, I simply broke down. I was tired. So, so, so tired.

All I could manage to say was, “God let your Gospel be the biggest thing in my life.” And then even more quietly, born out of the pain I held deepest, “Even bigger than wanting a baby.”

And GRACE, like living water, rushed in and I stood there in my grief and ugliness and knew without a doubt that God still held my heart. He had never carelessly tossed it aside as I had accused him so many times. He was there, holding it tenderly, making it beautiful and whole, waiting for me to exchange it for the heart of stone I had carved myself.

I don’t think that prayer at the communion table contained THE “magic” words and that everything has been okay from the minute forward. I still have really, really good days and I still have really, really bad days. I’m not sure I will ever be “100% okay” with any of this. But what I CAN tell you is that my God specializes in mending broken hearts.  I CAN tell you that admission allows me to experience grace. It gives me permission me to wonder at the possibility of what I cannot see. It fills my lungs with breath and breaks the chains I bind myself in. It sets me FREE.  We can try to convince ourselves we are able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We can try to convince ourselves that we own the best perspective on our life. We can convince ourselves that we want to hold onto our anger, and self-sufficiency because it’s safer. But GRACE invites us to something else.

It kisses our cheek and whispers that we are loved. It invites us to participate in a holy mystery. Allow yourself to be captivated by it.

Among the Evergreens...a blog.

On the Edge…

Journal entry from May 24, 2013…

I’m reflecting on a lot this morning. I am definitely not pregnant, after hoping SO much that I was. I feel like I am teetering on the edge of a breakdown and yet desperately trying to cling to God so I don’t fall over the edge. It’s easy to feed into this self-pity, the anger, the disappointment, the fear, but I don’t want turn His Gospel into a story of me. 

Because if I do, I will fall off that edge and I will be swallowed up by it. I’ve been there before…the numb and resentful version of myself and I know that God is calling me to be something different.

Two nights ago, I had the closest thing I’ve ever had to experiencing a panic attack. I laid awake at night, my pulse racing, trying to keep the onslaught of emotions at bay. All of these questions were yelling at the top of their lungs. 

“What if you never have kids?”

“What if you are too scared to venture where God wants you to go?”

This further fed into other deep-seated fears.

“What if this dark valley isn’t close to being the most difficult thing you will face?”

“What if I get cancer?”

“What if Jared dies?”

“What if my parents die soon?”

And the worst fear, the one that lurked beneath them all was…

WHAT IF YOUR ROOTS AREN’T DEEP ENOUGH IN CHRIST TO ENDURE ALL OF THESE?

Earlier that night, I had read Matthew 13, the parable of the soils and I INSTANTLY knew I was the seed that fell among the thorns. All of these fears and anxious thoughts seem to strip me of my certainity-a feeling I’ve never felt before. I’m not a fearful person. I’m usually in control of my emotions, and have the willpower to not allow a situation to overtake me. But last night, I just felt…lost it in all.

I kept praying, “Lord, let my roots be deep enough. Lord, let my roots be deep enough.” Repeating it over and over, wanting them to be true. I knew those fears were not from You. 

I know that now.

So I cling to You to keep these dark whispers from being the loudest thing I hear. 

It’s hard to navigate through all of this right now. I wish I wasn’t on this cliff teetering between hope and despair. But then again, I’m not sure anyone can go though something like this and NOT be on the edge. Because as much as I would like to just turn off all the emotions, the hopes, and dreams, I know that would mean turning my back on the journey You and I are supposed to go down together. 

And so I pray that you would give me the courage to face this. May Your voice command the fears and anxiety to be silent. Help me to sort through the onslaught of emotions. I feel bi-polar at times and that scares me. Hold me and soothe me. Call me out from within myself where I spend so much of my energy and effort internalizing all of this and trying to make sense of it. 

And if I am to remain on the edge, help me to trust that I will never truly fall. 

Among the Evergreens...a blog.

The Relationship of Honesty & Hope…Part II

Yeah, there’s a lot to say about this topic. I’ve obviously been thinking it about it a lot lately. : )

Part I spoke of honesty because I am learning you have to be honest before you can experience real HOPE. It’s not a band-aid meant to temporarily soothe a wound. It’s not just a word to casually wave around, like a magician’s wand. It’s meant to change your life.

And even among the difficult things I mentioned in the previous post, I want people to know that I’ve come to experience and see a lot of really beautiful things that let me know hope brings life.

For all the moments of isolation I have felt at times, I have also never known better friendships. I have a group of friends that have let me be honest when I am ready to be honest, who let me hold their baby and still pursue me amidst my own effort to hide at times. And they do this, even as some of them figure out this whole motherhood thing for themselves. They are gentle. They are loving. They encourage without ever lecturing, (which I have found isn’t always the easiest thing to do).

But I’m also surrounded by an amazing group of people in my home community. We’re a group diverse in age, background, occupation, and experience, committed to exploring and living out what it means to have Christ’s Gospel transform every part of your life. It’s a place to ask tough questions and wrestle and still be loved.

But most importantly, what my friends/home community offer is way more valuable to me than laughter over a Tuesday night happy hour, or a shoulder to cry on. They always offer perspective. Never in forms of a lecture. But because they allow me the space to tell my story, they also walk with me in it. And they tell me theirs.

And then the realization of hope comes. In a way, my story becomes theirs, and theirs mine. We all experience hurt in our way, we all have our own silent wounds we carry and are afraid to show others. We all struggle with disappointment and dashed hopes. We fear and fight, curse and cry.

But we also love, and deeply at that. We extend and receive forgiveness. We show and experience grace. We marvel and delight. We celebrate and share in one another’s joy.

We serve as reminders to each other that we were not meant to do life by ourselves. Their stories, so vast and different from mine, remind me that God is good. They remind me that hardships happen that can’t always be explained with a “Sunday school” answer. They let me know that grief is okay and that beauty can be found its ashes. And so for every moment of isolation I sometimes feel, I have another hundred moments of people rallying around me. Not towering over me and screaming at me to pick myself up, but rather they are there on the ground with me, reminding me of truth and that I am loved. And when I am ready to stand and take another step, they are there holding my hand.

This is my community. The broken, the bound. The freed, the joyous.

I guess what I find so hopeful about all of this is that it wasn’t an after thought or accident. God gives us each other…a part in His story.

There may be a day where I have to accept that life may not ever come in the form of my own child. But I will tell you, with all certainty, life is constantly bursting forth in ME.

Among the Evergreens...a blog.

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